Saturday, April 4, 2015

An Eyewitness View of the Crystal Lake Tornado

The roof of the Neisner's Department Store at the Crystal Lake Plaza caved in during the April 11, 1965, Palm Sunday Tornado in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

The 50th anniversary of the Crystal Lake tornado is upon us, and those of us who lived through this devastating storm sit in wonder that 50 years have passed.

A couple of weeks back, I volunteered to speak to the Northwest Herald reporter about being a witness to the tornado, but I never heard back from her.

A story written by local historians Craig Pfannkuche and Kurt Begalka that appeared in the Herald on Friday, April 3rd, spelled Rae Goss's name wrong.

Mr. Goss, who was killed in the tornado, had converted the upper level of a barn on his property at Cut-Off Road and Rt. 14 into a basketball court, and he allowed local boys to play there.  It was sweet!

On Palm Sunday, Mr. Goss shooed kids who were playing ball out of the barn just before the tornado struck.  He was a hero!

Some of the people quoted in Pfannkuche and Begalka's story in the Herald weren't even living in Crystal Lake at the time of this disaster.

It's like Martians came in and rewrote the history of my home town.

Time to set the record straight!

Palm Sunday of 1965 was sunny, hot, and humid in the morning.  My buddy Ace (Curt Esser) picked me up for Mass in his 1965 Chevrolet Impala SS convertible.   The top was down on the Chevy!

The weather was warm and windy one moment and cool the next.  The cold air and the warm air were battling each other for supremacy that morning.

Ace and I ditched Mass (me for the very first time!) and just rode around Crystal Lake enjoying the warm, humid air.  It had been a long winter!

Ace later picked me up again at two in the afternoon.  We were eventually headed for the New Place, the teen night club on Route 31 east of Crystal Lake.

We first stopped at Bob Roese's house in Coventry subdivision, and hail began falling.  Time for a hail stone fight!  The three of us began throwing hail stones at one another as the skies darkened and the wind began to blow.  Coventry was later touched by the tornado, but not as bad as Colby's subdivision to the northeast.

Because the New Place didn't open until 4:00 p.m., we went to "The Del," which was a delicatessen hang-out on Route 14 right across from Blanche Moan's grill at the corner of Washington St. and Virginia Street (Rt. 14).

All of a sudden around 3:30 p.m., "The Del" lights started flickering, and the wind started blowing.  As we ran to "The Del's" large window, a giantic limb from an oak tree at Blanche's Grill crashed into the middle of Virginia Street.  Sheets of rain fell.  There was thunder and lightning.

About five minutes later we heard the sirens--lots of sirens.  

"Let's go," Ace said.  And we hopped into the Impala and headed east on Route 14 to see what all the noise was.

We were on the scene at Colby's before the police had cordoned off the area.  Craig Knaack was a friend of mine, and I watched as rescue workers frantically tried to remove the caved in garage that had collapsed on his parents in their Harold St. home.  I was standing at the intersection of Harold and Keith Avenue at the time.  Craig's dad, Louie Knaack, was killed in the tornado.

Jim Holter was a year behind me in school, and both his mom and dad were killed in the tornado.  We couldn't get back to Holters' house on the north side of Colby's subdivision because there were so many power lines down.

It was a wild scene, with the power lines down and people running around screaming.  The Piggly Wiggly, where Bob Roese worked, was completely destroyed as was much of the Crystal Lake Plaza Shopping Center, including the Neisner's Department Store, which is pictured above.

By this time, the weather had turned cool, and the skies had cleared.  

The cops finally kicked us out of Colby's so we decided to follow the path of the tornado and see if it had hit the high school.  We were on spring break at the time.  

There was no damage to the high school, and I remember sitting in front of the school on Franklin Street and listening to ABC News at five minutes before the hour on WLS and hearing "Crystal Lake" mentioned in the lead story.  This was the first time I ever heard my hometown mentioned on a national news broadcast on radio or television.

We picked up Zak (Jim Pietrzak) on John Street, just off of East Crystal Lake Ave., and he said that there was damage further east on Crystal Lake Ave.  George Dopke's house had been devastated, and his dad severely injured.

We then went to Orchard Acres, near the intersection of Routes 31 and 176, and saw lots of damage to the relatively new homes there.

The tornado path continued on Rt. 176 to Island Lake, and we followed the path; however the devastation was not as severe as it had been in Crystal Lake.

I was going to work for the City of Crystal Lake's Street Department that summer, and they called me in the next week and had me work on Saturdays till school was out cleaning up the rubble from the tornado.  I then worked full-time for the city during the summer of 1965.

As Shakespeare would say, "It was a strange-disposed time."  The lives of the residents of Crystal Lake were changed on that Sunday afternoon, April 11, 1965.

Now you have an eye-witness account from someone who was actually there!  And I spelled Rae Goss's name right!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

"Working for Peanuts Is All Very Fine . . ." If You Are a Billionaire Hedgefund Manager Who Hates Unions!

You won't look this good after an eighty hour week.

I took the plunge recently and applied for a full-time job as a sports director at an Illinois radio station.

The operations director at the station called me up, and we had a nice phone interview.  When we got to the end of the conversation, he sprang the salary on me.

"Uh, the job only pays about $26,000 a year, Jim, but you can do radio advertising sales and earn a little extra money," the operations director told me.

$26,000?! for a full-time 12 month a year job?  And if this job is like other radio jobs I've had, I'd be working 60+ hours a week.

Where are the labor unions when we need them?

A radio station owner once told me that he had trouble competing with jobs in the public sector.  "Government jobs pay too much," he said.  "I can't make any money or hold on to good people.  My station is a revolving door because people like you who teach school make way too much money."

This from a guy who owns at least seven radio stations and who owns two houses and acres and acres of farm land.

The media report regularly on the polarization of wealth in American society, and it's no joke.  The good paying jobs are in the public sector.  Look at all the ex-radio and newspaper people who have left the business and now work as "spokespersons" for governmental entities.

Ray Hanania
Every time there is a controversy in Cicero, I hear town spokesperson Ray Hanania, a former newspaper/radio guy on TV or radio.  Hanania makes a lot more money working for Mayor Larry Dominick in Cicero than he ever did pulling a weekend shift at WLS Radio in Chicago or writing for the Sun-Times.

When I left radio to become a teacher in 1981, the Fremd H.S. principal asked me how I could leave a career I had invested 9 1/2 years in for a job that pays less.

"Pays less?"  I said.  "I'm getting a $4,000 a year raise coming to work for you!"  He couldn't believe it.

The situation is even worse today.  Companies hire part-time workers in order to avoid paying benefits.  Wages are low and benefits are few.  A woman who was an award winning news reporter just left her radio station job because the station refused to pay her health insurance.  She left for a job with a non-profit organization.

Hedge fund billionaire and union hater Ken Griffin and his wife Anne.
Meanwhile, hedge fund managers like Ken Griffin rail against public employee unions and write op-ed pieces filled with lies.  In an op-ed piece in the Tribune last November, Griffin screamed that retired teachers get free health insurance.  I sat there wondering where the $12,000 +  I paid to the State of Illinois for my wife's and my health insurance went to.  Maybe into Griffin's pocket!

Griffin just gave $2.5 million to Republican candidate for Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, another billionaire who never misses an opportunity to bash public employee unions and teachers.

You have to wonder when Griffin and Rauner will be happy.  When my teacher's pension and Social Security benefits are taken away and I'm working 80 hours a week doing news, sports, sales, and programming for $26,000 a year?

Nah!  These greedy bastards will never be satisfied.  Their greed and the greed of those billionaires in the so called "Civic Federation" know no bounds.

So despite the fact that there are some warts on faces of the unions, a good union is something that helps the middle class maintain its wage structure in the face of all the anti-union negativity.  When the media give Rauner and Griffin a platform to spout their anti-union venom, don't believe a word they say.  They just want more money for themselves.

Chicago Tribune editorial page editor Bruce Dold allows lies to be printed on his editorial page.
And to you media pawns like Bruce Dold, the editorial page editor of the Chicago Tribune who give Rauner and Griffin the platform where they can spout their lies:  There's a nice warm place in hell waiting for you, buddy.  You, Dold, have scared downstate women teachers who are barely scraping by, by printing lies from Griffin and Rauner.

Burn in hell, liar!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Big Chill: How Noodle Spined Administrators DUMB DOWN American Education

The confrontation is a classic one.  Little Joanie has her seat moved in the third grade classroom because she can't keep her mouth shut and talks to her friend Ellen all the time.  Mrs. Meyers, the girls' teacher, moves Joanie's seat to separate the two girls.

Joanie runs home after school and tells her mom.  The mother, a member of the school's parent-teacher organization, calls Mrs. Neri, the school principal, and tells Mrs. Neri that Joanie should be moved back to her original seat.  The next morning Principal Neri "suggests" Mrs. Meyers return Joanie to her original seat.  Mrs. Meyers complies.

That afternoon Joanie and her friend Ellen chat continuously during the quiet reading period, Mrs. Meyers ignores their whispering and giggling.  Mrs Meyers doesn't even look up from her book.

Now Joanie feels empowered.  At age nine, she has discovered that with the help of a parent and a willing administrator, a student can tell a teacher what to do.

Flash forward ten years.  Joanie attends the local community college.  She's taking freshman composition, a required course.  When Mr. Bowers, the instructor, returns Joanie's first paper, the grade is a "C."  Joanie tells her classmates as she leaves Mr. Bowers' class that she is going to complain to the dean about the grade and about Mr. Bowers' teaching.

Off Joanie goes to Dean Carter's office.  Joanie makes an appointment, fills out the proper complaint forms, and schedules a time to seen Dean Carter in person.

When Joanie and the dean meet, Joanie tells Dean Carter that all the students in the class object to Mr. Bowers' teaching methods.  "No one likes him," Joanie tells Dean Carter.  "He marks up our papers something fierce and then tells us to re-rewrite them.  I don't have time for that!  I'm working 30 hrs. a week!"

Dean Carter tells Joanie that he will have a talk with Mr. Bowers, and he does, telling Mr. Bowers that his grading is too hard and that requiring students to rewrite essays is not part of the community college curriculum.

Joanie smirks in class the next day when Mr. Bowers tells the students that they will not have to re-write their papers any longer.  Joanie feels empowered, knowing that she is now in control of the English composition class.  Her grades on her essays go up to "B's," and she wonders if she can also manipulate her "C" grade in her American history class.

The next semester Mr. Bowers stops grading English papers so closely.  He now uses the English Department rubric for each paper.  Few, if any corrections appear on Mr. Bowers' students' papers.  There are brief comments on the rubric--very brief.

Mr. Bowers also stops giving grades below a "B-."  He raises a grade if a student complains, and the student does not have to revise and edit the paper.

The above examples show what's happening in American schools.   Teachers who are tough and want their students to learn are being pushed aside in favor of those teachers who are "nice" to the students and give everyone high grades.

I know one school where there used to be two or three students from each grade school class at the quarterly honor roll breakfast.  Now almost every student attends.  One teacher who was holding out was reprimanded by the principal for only having three students at the honor roll breakfast.  "Mrs. Radke has all of her fourth grade students going," the principal said.  "I hope next quarter you can up your student count."

Ah, the velvet hammer.

I'm not sure how things got this way in the short time since I left Fremd High School in 2007, but the problem is pervasive.  I sat for countless hours in a dean's office at Kishwaukee College last semester  because a student complained to the dean that I was censoring his journalism/newspaper stories.

You know what I was doing?  I was trying to figure out how to revise his sentences so that they made sense.  The kid couldn't write three words without making a mistake.

But this student knew he had the upper hand.  He bragged at the Kaleidoscope editorial board meetings that he was going to meet with the president of the college because the dean wasn't moving fast enough for him.

I guess it worked because I'm sitting on my butt writing this, and he's blissfully going to class at Kishwaukee bragging to his friends how he ran "the bitter old man" out.

What can be done?  I have no clue.  I know that I'm not going back until I get a guarantee that requiring my students to write COHERENT papers will be encouraged.

So the next time you hear the Chamber of Commerce or the Illinois Manufacturing Association moaning how Illinois students can't write or do math, think of little Joanie and of all the other students who now run our schools.   And think too of the administrators who are empowering them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Stupid or How a College Adjunct Got Religion

December 17, 2013 was the day I said goodbye to stupid.  I walked out of Kishwaukee College in Malta after a semester of harassment and dealing with students who could give a shit about education.

One of my English Composition I classes at Kish was a late start class, meaning it began on September 23rd rather than August 29th.  Only ten out of twenty-two students showed up the first day.  "What's going on?" I thought to myself.

Two weeks later three students were standing outside of my classroom as I walked in the door.  "Are you Mr. Wyman?" one of them asked.

"Yes I am," I replied.

"I'm ______ ______, and I'm in your English class," one of the students said.  The other two also introduced themselves.

"No, you're not in my class," I replied.  "We started class two weeks ago, and the students have done five writing assignments.  You'll never catch up!  Where were you?"

"I had some business to take care of in the city," one of the students said.

Yeah, sure you did!  I had heard the stories of Chicago Public School students showing up for class in late September and the CPS push to cajole parents into getting their kids show up the day after Labor day (the traditional first day of school in the city), but this was the first time I had seen this debacle live.

There's more.

There was a student in my other comp. class who, according to his classmates, showed up to class every day reeking of marijuana.  The class met at 2:00 p.m.  I had allowed the young man to enroll in the class at the beginning of the semester even though the class was full.

When it came time for the argumentative paper--the last major essay in the class--the student plagiarized the paper from the internet.  I had been reading his papers all semester so the difference between his argumentative paper and the other papers he had written was glaring.   I found the paper he plagiarized on the internet in five minutes.  I told him he was going to fail the class.

However, the student went to the dean, persuaded the dean to give him a medical withdrawal, and the student withdrew from the class with a full refund.

Take that, Wyman!  You lose, big boy!

Then there was the student in my journalism class at Kish who went to the dean and claimed I had made racist comments about him and that I had censored his newspaper stories.  The student had left us in the lurch by not completing two stories for the first issue of the school newspaper.  He and the editor-in-chief, the only carry-over from a train wreck of a prior newspaper staff that simply printed college press releases the previous year, had attempted to turn the new newspaper students against me.

I laughed at him. . . . at first.

The dean who had hired me at Kish was on maternity leave so I had to deal with another dean who took the Hispanic student's charges seriously.  All I could think of as I sat for hours in this stupid dean's office for hours was how Fremd principal Tom Howard would have thrown the kid out of his office if this had happened at Fremd High School.

But this was not Fremd.  This was the new world of education where students have been empowered to make-up accusations against teachers, and deans and department chairs back the students against the teachers.  The teachers are wrong; the students are right in this new world!

It's enough to make a teacher pick up his ball and go home.  And that's what I did!

This wasn't the first time Wyman got in hot water teaching college.  At Dominican University, one of my students wrote on my evaluation, "He told us we were dumber than his community college students."

When the English Department chair at Dominican was prodded by the dean to confront me on the student's comment, I told him it was true.

The chairman said, "Mr. Wyman, we are admitting students from Chicago into Dominican who have scores of 11 on their ACT tests.  These students don't need to be told they are stupid."

I guess they already know, I thought to myself.

Imagine, students going to college with an ACT score of 11!  Dominican has little remediation for these students, and from what I could see the college is passing them right through the English courses.  Heck, the football players at Miami have to have a score of 16 on the ACT.

This wasn't the same Dominican my mom had attended in 1929.  "We are a Hispanic serving institution!" the dept. chair said proudly.

Pick up your ball, Jim, and go home. 

Colleges like Kishwaukee, Dominican, and Monmouth College are struggling to find warm bodies to fill their desks.  Enrollment has dropped so the schools are actively recruiting students from the City of Chicago.  Lowering standards is the rule these days.  I had students at Monmouth who scored 32 on the ACT and others with 12s.  Imagine teaching students in that wide a range.

I had one student at Monmouth who would come in for extra  writing help.  "You wouldn't believe how bad it is in Chicago schools, Mr. Wyman," he told me.  I believe it now, Ozzie!

So I'm sitting here on this cold late spring day getting all my frustration out and wondering what the hell I'm going to do with myself.  The radio station gig doing basketball games in Galesburg ran out last week, and I don't think there's anyone pregnant at Fremd so I can't do a maternity leave.

I guess I'll just blog.

But here's a warning to all of you teachers.  Be careful what you do and say in the classroom.  The world of education is far different in 2014 than it was 30 or 40 years ago.

Stupid has won!

Teachers Unions Should Get Blame for Quinn vs. Rauner Election Campaign Fiasco

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn gives his victory speech at the Carpenters Union Hall.
As a member of both teachers unions, the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and the Illinois Education Association (IEA), I was surprised when current Illinois Governor Pat Quinn showed up for his primary election celebration at the Carpenters Union Hall in Chicago.

How could a labor union like the carpenters be endorsing a governor who supported a pension bill that screwed teachers.  The IFT is part of the AFL-CIO--same as the carpenters!  Shouldn't the carpenters join the teachers by opposing Quinn?

Then the news came out this week that the Service Employees International Union of Illinois also endorsed Quinn.

Can endorsements from the IFT and IEA be far behind?

Shouldn't these unions dump Quinn for his support of Speaker Mike Madigan's pension bill which royally screwed downstate and suburban teachers?

The wife and I crossed over in the primary, asked for Republican ballots, and voted for Kirk Dillard, the former WIU frat boy.  I was holding my nose the entire time I was in the polling booth!

As most readers know, the two teachers unions endorsed frat boy Dillard despite the fact that he is anti-gay marriage, pro-life, and pro-gun.  The ads running on downstate radio stations trumpeted Dillard's stance on all these issues, never mentioning the union support or Dillard's "no" vote on Quinn's pension bill.

Dillard lost, but teacher support closed a 20 point gap to only three percentage points.

So now we are faced with Quinn or Bruce Rauner.  What a choice!

I will never vote for Quinn or for any other politician who voted to dump the 3% cost of living adjustment for my pension.  Never!  I'll never vote for Rauner either.

So it looks like I'm sitting this election out!

Quinn will wheedle his way into the good graces of what his opponent calls the "union bosses," and teachers will crawl back and vote for the lesser of two evils.  I can hear the rhetoric from the unions now:  "Do you want another Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker?"  "Governor Quinn believes in raising the minimum wage!"  "Pat Quinn is a friend of organized labor!"


Pat Quinn is the worst political hack in the state, and that's saying something in Illinois.  I've written before about his phony populist campaigns of the 1970's when he and his entourage would arrive at the radio station in Galesburg, and the news director would literally hide in the janitor's closet so that he wouldn't have to listen to Quinn's babbling.

We teachers are the ones who helped Quinn defeat Bill Brady four years ago.  Quinn was running behind during the entire campaign.  Brady was so confident of victory he started releasing his plans for what he was going to do in Springfield prior to election day.  The polls all said Quinn was toast.

Then the teachers stepped up.  We voted for Governor Gadfly in droves in 2008, and the thanks we got was a pension bill that makes active teachers work longer for less money and screws retirees out of their 3% annual cost of living adjustment.

Who caused this mess?  I blame the teachers unions.

As far back as 2002, the teachers unions were supporting jailbird Rod Blagojevich in the primary because he was married to Chicago Alderman Dick Mell's daughter Patti.  Mel's another political hack.  The IFT and the IEA even supported Blagojevich in the 2006 election when they knew he was dirty. 

Bruce Rauner declares victory on primary election night.
Rauner talks about the back-room deals that union leaders made with the state legislators in order to boost the union leaders' pensions.  Rauner is right, and we're going to be hearing all about it during the upcoming campaign.

For example, Reg Weaver, the former IEA president, gets a Illinois Teachers Retirement (TRS) pension of $242, 657 a year, according to the Chicago Tribune.  Weaver is able to roll over his union salary into TRS.  Other state union executives have subbed one day in the classroom in order to have their union salaries rolled into TRS.  This is wrong!

All of these examples of union leaders cozying up to Illinois legislators in order to enrich themselves will be coming your way in Rauner's TV ads.  Get ready!

I always thought that union officials were supposed to be workers who did the union business out of the goodness of their hearts.  This obviously is not so.  Cinda Clickna, current IEA president, made $197,212 during the 2012-13 school year.  Clickna won't have to worry about losing her COLA with a pension like she'll have.  The rest of us?  We're blankin' worried!

So until the teachers unions clean up their acts and put their own houses in order, I'm going back to my WIU days and proclaim myself a GDI--God Damned Independent!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pension "Reform" Under Cover of a Major Holiday: Have They No Shame?

Pension Thieves: Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan and Governor Pat Quinn
The Illinois State Legislature's leaders have agreed on a pension "reform" bill that is set for a rush vote next week (December 2-6).

Under cover of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, these bozos aren't releasing details of their bill to the public, only to fellow legislators.

These jokers are so sleazy I feel dirty just writing about them.  This is the same underhanded thing they did during the Memorial Day weekend last summer.

Wait till the holiday when teachers are busy and then screw them.  I was on the phone calling legislators offices Black Friday morning, and what do you think I got?  Ringing phones!  But you know "Mr. Speaker" and "Governor Gadfly" were in touch with the legislators via cell phone.

Here are some of the details about the "reform" bill that are trickling out:

If you are younger than 45 years of age, you will be working longer.  The retirement age will be raised.

If you have one of those big District 211 salaries over $100,000, get set to see your potential pension lowered as the legislature will only figure your pension on what is believed to be $106,000.  You're paying for something you will not receive.  Surprised?  Don't be; there's more!

The cost of living adjustment (COLA) for saps like me will be reduced from the current 3% compounded annually to a formula based on how long you worked and tied to the rate of inflation.  My wife, who taught 7 1/2 years longer than I did will now get a bigger COLA even though my pension is higher and I paid more into TRS than she did.  Fair?  Nah, fairness has been buried!

Current workers will pay less to the Teacher's Retirement System (TRS), but will get less.  This is being done so that active teachers won't bitch.  But you active teachers should know that you are getting screwed too!  You will work longer for less pension benefits than your retired colleagues received, and you've already paid more than we did.

A 401(K) system is being established for those who want to opt out of the defined pension plan and establish their own retirement accounts.  No word who is going to match the employee contribution.  Matching is the key to a successful 401(K), and with the State of Illinois broke and most school districts teetering on the brink of financial crisis because of the state's failure to pay its state aid on time, the 401(K) option looks dead on arrival.

The State of Illinois will be legally required to make its pension payments on time.  This same crap was promised in 1998 when the last pension bill was passed, and look what happened!  Governor Rod Blagojevich and his crony Mike Madigan moved the 2005 $405 million TRS contribution into shoring up the state budget.

Then the Chicago Tribune reports on Friday that retired teachers get "free" health insurance and that a teacher retiring in 2012 "could expect a starting pension of $72,693."  THESE ARE BOLD-FACED LIES.  I paid $11,040 in health insurance premiums to the state for my wife and me in 2012.  And the average teacher pension in Illinois is more like $30,000, not $72,693.  The Chicago Tribune is a lying joke!  I've invited Trib Editorial Page Editor R. Bruce Dold to sit in on my journalism class.  He needs remediation!

But this is what we have been left with.  Not only are they ramming those common core standards down our throats, they are also saying that we make too much money both while teaching and in retirement.

The Illinois State Constitution guarantees that retirement benefits "cannot be diminished," but if this bill is passed, the teachers unions, who by the way were completely left out of the just completed negotiations AGAIN, will be forced to sue.  I'm 65 years old.  I'm counting on that 3% COLA.  I paid for my pension!  I can't wait for a lawsuit to make its way through the court system.

It's the State of Illinois that shirked its funding responsibility, and yet I am the one who will suffer if this unconstitutional bill is passed.

God, I'm pissed off!

What can we do?

We must stop the Illinois State Legislature from passing this bill.  Go to the We Are One Illinois web site and get connected to your state senator and state representative.  Call him or her on Monday morning when you get up or during your free period.  Follow up your call with an e-mail.  Stop these sneaky bastards from ruining your life.

This may be our last chance!

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Heroes and Villains of Illinois Pension Reform

Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan
In the aftermath of the Illinois House's passing Speaker Mike Madigan's pension reform bill on May 2nd, it's time to look at the heroes and villains.

So let's have at it!

Villain:  Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan (D) Chicago.  Whoever said the boss system was dead in Illinois?  Eat your words if you did!  The man in the photo above, Mike Madigan, may have more power in Illinois than the former mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, had.  Madigan will never call a bill to the House floor unless he knows it will pass so I was bending over on Monday morning and holding my ankles when I heard his bill was coming up for a vote.

Madigan has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the two teachers' unions, and he voted in favor of most of the pension bills that are now in the process of being ash canned.  Early Retirement Option?  Madigan voted "yes."  Compounded Cost of Living Adjustment?  Yes, Madigan was on board for that one too.

Now, all of a sudden Madigan "gets religion" and decides to screw both active and retired teachers.  My pension will be virtually frozen unless the Illinois Supreme Court decides to uphold the state constitution.  I grew up in McHenry County.  I know all about trusting judges to do the right thing!

Rep. Don Moffitt
Hero: Representative Don Moffitt (R) Gilson.  I don't always agree with Don Moffitt on his votes, but he is a true bi-partisan statesman.  Moffitt voted "no" on every pension bill that came his way.

Don represents a district where teachers don't make a lot of money.  Heck, the top salary for a teacher in Knoxville, just down the road from Gilson and Galesburg, is $60,000--and that's with a master's degree, another 30 hours of graduate credit, and 35 years of teaching experience.

There are tons of retired teachers in Knox, Warren Henderson, and Stark Counties who have pensions under $20,000 per year and who get NO Social Security benefits because they taught all their lives.  Many of these pensioners are widows.

Don Moffitt recognizes this, and he stuck by his educator constituents.  Thanks, Don!  You're more than a hero in our house--you're what our founding fathers intended a legislator to be!

Representative Tom Cross
Villain:  House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R) Oswego.

I know this guy!  He went to Yorkville High School where I taught once upon a time.  I'm not sure if Bob Evans or Bob Williams, the football coaches at Yorkville, terrorized him or what happened when he was a student, but Cross has had it in for teachers all through this pension process.

Then last night he had the nerve to say about the legislation that HE once sponsored, “In many ways, we owe those folks [teachers and other public employeed] an apology from (the) General Assembly."

Apology?  Buddy, you are in the pockets of the fat cats at the "Civic" Federation of Chicago.  The corporate millionaires and billionaires will be lining your pockets with campaign contributions now.  All they expect is that you continue to support the massive tax breaks that the state gives them and their companies.

Meanwhile teachers in Newark, Lisbon, Plattville, and other small towns in your district suffer.  I'm not sure how you sleep at night.

You know what you can do with your apology, big boy!

Rep. Jack Franks

Villain:  Representative Jack Franks (D) Marengo.

Jack Franks is another turncoat Democrat, just like Madigan.  Here's a guy who helped force me out of full-time teaching.  He voted "yes" back in 2005 to NOT appropriate the $409 million to the Teachers Retirement System.

The money was used to balance the state budget, and that was the straw that broke the camel's back as far as pension funding goes.  Teachers over 55 (my wife and myself) were forced to choose whether to retire in 2007 or stay longer and get less in pension benefits.  We got out.

Yesterday, Franks voted in favor of Madigan's bill to screw teachers.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  Franks is from McHenry County, which is the most corrupt county in Illinois.  Historically, it was the McHenry County Republicans who wallowed the stink of the corruption.  It's nice to see that Franks has learned his lessons from his colleagues from the other party.

Rep. Kay Hatcher
Villain:  Representative Kay Hatcher (R) Yorkville.

Kay Hatcher may be the worst of the worst of the above villains.  She is a liar!

Back in 2010, I was filling in as the news guy at WSPY-FM radio in Plano.  The primary was coming up, and I was on a panel of reporters who asked the candidates questions in the old Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville.

Pension legislation was in the wind even then, and I asked Hatcher about what she thought of freezing the cost of living adjustments for retired teachers.

"Oh, I would never be in favor of that," Hatcher said.  "Our teachers have worked long and hard for their retirement pensions.  I would never vote to do anything to hurt our retired teachers."

Hatcher voted "yes" on Madigan's pension killing bill yesterday.

Villain:  The Chicago Tribune. Here's what the "World's Greatest Newspaper" said to teachers in its editorial in the May 2, 2013 edition.

"You'll still be getting a generous deal--benefits that all of your friends in the private sector will subsidize, but for higher than what they'll receive from Social Security.  You're still in a defined benefit retirement plan at a time when governments elsewhere are starting to shirt toward defined contributions plans similar to 401(k)s.  And of course, you can invest on your own to secure an even more comfortable retirement."

The Trib's editorial board has been spewing crap like this for years now.  What the Trib. doesn't say is that most teacher pensions in Illinois are not "generous."  The newspaper only writes about the suburban administrators and teachers who are getting six-figure pensions.  Retired downstate teachers are barely mentioned.

And by the way, Tribsters, we retired teachers paid much more for our pensions than we would have paid for Social Security benefits.  Our pensions SHOULD be higher than SS.

As far as investing goes, try investing a portion of your teaching salary when you are living in Roseville, Illinois, making $28,000 a year with a Master's degree, and  a wife and two kids.  Yeah, sure!

I'd love to teach the Tribune Editorial Board beginning journalism.  Their bias leaks from the editorial page onto the news pages every day.  They should be ashamed.


There are lots more villains who could join this club.  Governor Pat Quinn; Representative Elaine Nekritz (Madigan's toad); Representative Pam Roth, who likes to tout that she will not accept a pension from the state when she and her husband, Steve, are independently wealthy.

More on them next time and more on the unions and whether they are what Madigan says they are ("Paper Tigers") or if they are indeed representing their members.

Thanks for reading this!  Writing it has made me feel better!